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M J Tolley

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Member Since: Sep, 2010

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Four Minute Warning
by M J Tolley   

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Literary Fiction

Publisher:  M J Tolley Type: 


Copyright:  August 2010

Available to order from

Based on true events, Four Minute Warning is a personal account of how my adolescent world of school, exams, girls and video games in the mid 1990s was suddenly thrown into turmoil by a massive brain haemorrhage, aged just fourteen, which left me paralysed and unable to communicate; lost in a void of silence and confusion. Inspiring and dramatic, as well as nostalgic and humourous, Four Minute Warning is a story of a survival against the odds, shattered memories and the rebuilding of a life that had only just begun.

Hello fellow readers and authors, thank you for reading this.  Four Minute Warning is my first ever novel; an idea borne from a deep frustration I have been carrying for fifteen years after I suffered a massive brain haemorrhage at just fourteen years old. Suddenly faced with my own mortality at such a young age I was forced rebuild my life from scratch.  Although I have listed Four Minute Warning as a fictional story, it honestly and accurately chronicles my journey back to health and fighting for my independence as a teenager - the fictional elements are very minor indeed and only serve to aid the flow of the novel.

Suitable for everyone, however I particularly recommend it to anyone who is currently dealing with the effects of a stroke or brain haemorrhage or knows or is caring for someone who has. If it helps just one survivor or their loved ones deal with their condition or gives them the courage not to give up on their recovery, then I will consider it a triumph. My book is a celebration of the fragility and power of life.

I hope that anyone who purchases Four Minute Warning will find it inspiring and humorous, as well as dramatic and thought-provoking.


Please note there are a couple of uses of strong language; 

Chapter Seven

When I awoke again, I was able to open my eyes a little more and focus on some nearby objects. I slowly became aware that I was in a bed. But it wasn’t my bed at home, this was hard and uncomfortable. Every time I blinked, it seemed that the room I was in would metamorphosise into a completely different one, my environment constantly shifting before I could become accustomed to it. The window on my left hand side would be on the right a while later or the plastic mask that covered my mouth would suddenly vanish, and then reappear in a heartbeat.

Some of the features of the room would stay constant. Across the room I could just about make out a set of orange bellows, which made a strange gasping noise as they rhythmically rose and fell. The air was filled with the sounds of a frantic hospital environment; an irregular symphony of beeps and alarms emitted by machines monitoring the vital signs of the other patients. Occasionally this electronic cacophony would be punctuated with human sounds; a foreign sounding man crying out in pain, people talking in hushed tones then suddenly shouting for assistance. Once I heard the gentle sound of a lady weeping. The whole room felt artificially warm, as if it were heated despite the incredible humidity outside.

I also started to notice people sat by my side or stood at the end of my bed. Two concerned faces watched my every move. Sometimes I would recognise them, knowing that they were mum and dad, but then seconds later they simply became voyeuristic strangers. Images of other people; my sister, my auntie and uncle and cousins appeared and disappeared at my bedside. I cannot say if they were actually there or merely illusions, conjured from the deepest recesses of my damaged mind.

Time was irrelevant. I never felt truly awake, or even tired, just trapped in a numb state of limbo between the two. Night followed day in a blink of an eye, although outside it always seemed to be evening. The small glimpse of the sky outside visible from my bed always seemed to be filled with a deep orange and red; an almost apocalyptic hue. I could have been there for five years or five minutes, it all felt the same.

Like a being trapped inside a time-lapse film, the world rushed around me in a blur whilst I remained motionless in my bed. I was merely an interloper, trespassing in a world where I didn’t belong. Nurses, doctors and visitors came and went. Nobody seemed to talk to me, they just watched my every move with worried eyes as I tried to make sense of what was going on. I couldn't speak, I didn’t know how to. I was vaguely aware that my right arm and leg wouldn't move at all, but my fragile mind couldn't begin to comprehend why not. In fact the entire right hand side of my body was just dead, even my face. No feelings of pain or numbness; just nothing.

The physical world I found myself in was abstract and broken. On several occasions, I became convinced that the window was made from old and grimy red bottles, and that the bed I was lying in was made of stone. The visions swirled and pulsated, the gap between reality and my perception of reality an insurmountable chasm. Nothing made sense at all. My once clear world now completely scratched and distorted.

My mind frantically fought for answers as I lay stricken, struggling to make sense of my new environment.

What happened?
Where am I?
Why am I here?

Professional Reviews

A J Oakes
This book provided a very honest and amazing account of a teenager's battle back to health having suffered a stroke. I really enjoyed this book and consider that it would be a great support to both those recovering from a stroke and their carers.

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